Tim Leeds Havre Daily News email@example.com
The Veterans Affairs Montana Healthcare System has announced that the plans to open a VA clinic in Havre have been delayed while the VA determines the most cost-effective way to open a Havre clinic. Teresa Bell, public affairs officer for VA Montana Healthcare System, said that after the VA received bids to provide services on a contract basis in Havre, the VA decided to review a bid by a local provider and determine whether the clinic should be opened on a contract basis or opened as a separate VA-staffed facility. “Whenever the government enters into a contract arrangement there is a requirement to assure the price is cost effective to the government ,” Bell said in an e-mail. “Once the analysis is complete VA will go forward with the Havre (clinic).” Montana’s U. S. Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester said they have been looking into the delay. Both also said they will fight to make sure it does open. “The Havre VA Clinic is a big priority for me, and I have directly contacted VA Montana about this delay. They say they’re taking a second look at how they want to do the Havre clinic to get the best bang for the buck for Montana’s veterans and taxpayers,” said Tester, a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “I am frustrated that things have ground to a halt but I have assurances from (Montana VA Healthcare) Director (Joe) Underkofler that the VA remains committed to opening a clinic in Havre sooner rather than later. “As a member of the Senate veterans committee I will keep the VA’s feet to the fire and work to make sure The Havre clinic doesn’t get bogged down in red tape.” Tester added. “Hi-Line vets have waited long enough.” Baucus also said he will fight to make sure the clinic does open. “I’ve made it very clear to the VA that there is a tremendous need for veterans’ health services in Havre and across the Hi-Line,” he said. “Administrators at the VA have promised me they are going to create a VA clinic in Havre. I’m committed to working together with Jon to make sure every single Montana veteran, no matter where they live, has access to the health care they need and deserve.” Having a VA clinic has been an issue on the Hi-Line for decades. The nearest clinic, where medical services for qualifying veterans are provided and paid for through Veterans’ Affairs, has been in Great Falls, requiring Hi-Line veterans to travel more than 100 miles one way to receive the services. After the VA approved new clinics in Cut Bank and Lewistown the Lewistown clinic opened last month Havre veteran Merrill Lundman started the drive again to get VA health services in Havre. After collecting signatures in petitions from Chester to Turner, he submitted the petitions and letters to policymakers including Montana’s congressional delegation, the governor, and state and federal-level VA officials. The VA request for proposals listed in Federal Biz Opportunities said the clinic would serve 4,300 qualifying veterans in a multi-county region. Lundman said it was very difficult to have to drive at least 100 miles one way to take advantage of his benefits, which he said saved him more than $13,000 a year on prescriptions alone. Lundman died on on Dec. 22, 2007, just more than one month before the VA announced it would open a Havre clinic. After opening the project to bids this summer and announcing in July a decision would be made by Aug. 1, the VA announced this week it was canceling the solicitation. The VA request for proposals listed in Federal Biz Opportunities said the clinic would serve 4,300 qualifying veterans in a multi-county region.